My question is about the legislative process. Recently Trump and the Democrats worked out a "deal" on the debt ceiling and aid for Hurricane Harvey victims. And, this deal passed Congress despite Republican leadership opposition. Now there is talk of another Trump - Democrat "deal" regarding DACA and border security (the to be or not to be "wall").

How does this work when the Republicans have majorities in both houses of Congress and also (I believe) control the agenda (decide which bills will come up for a vote and which will not)? Have the Democrats (and Trump) formed a coalition with moderate Republicans (if such an animal even exists any more)? Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of our leaders compromising to get things done. It's just that I am missing something in all this. I thought I had a good understanding of the legislative process. But I don't understand how the President is making "deals" with the minority party to pass legislation.

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    @SJuan76 - I don't think it is a duplicate, because I answered that one and my answer was quite different. The other one is asking "If they have a majority, why does he need to make a deal with the Dems, since he should be able to pass what he wants?" This one asks "Since the GOP is the majority, how can he pass anything by aligning with the minority?" It's a bit different. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 14:19
  • Actually my question was more on why didn't the house pass what their majority wanted, basically the same as this question with the addition of "what was Trump thinking?", so there is a similarity, But given a variety of answers, I think both should stay open.
    – userLTK
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 12:11

4 Answers 4


Aid for Harvey victims was a must pass legislation. It was going to pass in some form regardless. While in theory, Republicans could have blocked it in the House of Representatives, in practice, they had to vote on something. And if they allowed any amendments at all, Democrats were going to push for the deal that Donald Trump made.

It's unclear if a replacement for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) replacement has the same logic. Democrats and Trump have announced a deal. But it is less immediate. No one will starve to death if DACA isn't replaced tomorrow. So Republicans can amend a possible deal if they want to do so.

In other words, Democrats and Trump can announce as many deals as they want. They still can't pass them without at least implicit support from the Republican leadership. They had that implicit support on Harvey, as it was emergency legislation. It's unclear if they have it on DACA or not. We'll have to wait and see how it goes.


The way these "deals" work is that a certain amount of congresspeople from majority party vote for the deal (FiveThirtyEight typically calls them "Collins wing of Republican Party" - basically, more liberal/moderate Republicans, often elected from less-red states). Enough to get a majority of votes (as there is no need to override a veto on a bill the President supports, Congress only needs pure majority, not 2/3 of votes; though Senate would need filibuster-proof one on any bills that are subject to filibuster).


Basically the Republican party is not actually a unified party. There are different factions with different ideologies, and they do not always, or even often, vote together. The Tea Party Republicans and other far right politicians will not vote for more moderate bills, while more moderate Republicans will not vote for more far right bills. In this case it is easier to get a majority through working with Democrats and moderate Republicans than through trying to unify the party, and work with the Tea Party. (The Tea Party is essentially unwilling to compromise at all.)

  • Clarification: If the Speaker in the House and the Majority Leader in the Senate control the legislative agenda, how do these coalitions (Trump-Democrats-moderate Republicans) get a bill to the floor for a vote? If the coalition has a majority, can they "override" the Speaker and Majority Leader and bring the bill to the floor over their objections?
    – David H
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 14:14
  • There is an informal majority or the majority rule, but it's not all that well followed.
    – user9389
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 15:59
  • @notstoreboughtdirt If that were truly relevant then Republicans would be able to pass bills. The reality is they are divided, and not a unified political party.
    – Braydon
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 23:16

I believe the assumption is that, since he's the leader of the Republican Party, they are not going to lock-step oppose their own guy, so he gets a certain number of Republicans on board.

The reason why there is an assumption that the Republicans won't vote against Trump in unanimous lockstep, like they did as a matter of policy with Obama, is if the Congressional Republicans basically declare war on their own party leader, no one but the Dems can win (given their track record, that's not a given, either), short or long term. They will be viewed as an incompetent party, in complete disarray and will be viewed as a party that demonstrated there is no reason to put them in majorities because they can't get anything done when they have all the needed levers of power to do whatever they want.

Trump probably believes they'll try to avoid sending the impression that they can't govern, as a majority party, and will have at least some members voting with him, with the leadership then falling in line to make it look like they were involved in making the results happen.

  • Feel free to offer feedback on the downvotes, folks. This does explain why Trump might seek "minority" support - the assumption that his party won't unanimously oppose him. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 21:26
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    @Facebook - Thanks. I thought it was a pretty well-known concept, but I've fleshed it out a bit more. I appreciate the feedback. Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 14:44

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